NYU's High School Cybersecurity Challenge Preps for Finals

With more than 1 billion records of personal information stolen last year, cybersecurity is climbing to the top of the national and public agenda. Yet demand for skilled security professionals is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry today, with experts at (ISC)2 predicting a shortage of 1.5 million open and unfilled security positions by 2020.

As a result, companies are struggling not only to find enough people to defend corporate and consumer data, but also those with the right skills to fight back against an increasingly vast and sophisticated network of hackers.

On Nov. 12-14, students from across the world will gather in Brooklyn for the largest student-run cybersecurity contest in the nation, the Cybersecurity Awareness Week (CSAW) games at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. This cybersecurity event invites teams of students to compete in security contests, from a round-the-clock contest that requires students to think like hacker, to a cybersecurity forensics contest for high school students. The teams will compete not just for the title of HSF winner, but for more than $450,000 in scholarships.

This year, a record 800 teams from across the world competed in the online preliminary round. In the lead-up to the finals, 35 students from ten US high schools and two in Abu Dhabi cracked the High School Forensics (HSF) challenge, one of six major games comprising CSAW. These top 12 teams from the United States and the UAE will now travel to New York to play in the NYU finals.

“Events like these are crucial, not only for attracting the next generation to careers in cybersecurity but also for helping students build the hands-on skills that will be needed as they enter the industry,” organizers noted.

Designed to give young students interested in computer security a chance to test their skills, the HSF challenge is a murder-mystery game requiring teams of students to analyze electronic evidence to solve a fictitious crime that includes a financial element including Bitcoin. Students in grades 9-12 are eligible for HSF, working in teams of up to three students.

The contest has yielded fruit in the past: NYU student Emily Wicki had no computer background the year before entering the contest as a high schooler back in 2011. After winning the contest with her team, Emily went on to pursue cybersecurity studies at NYU, and is now running the high school division of the contest that brought her into cybersecurity in first place.

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